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Tampa Bay Holistic Wellness is a preventative health care practice offering corrective exercise, sports performance, massage therapy and nutrition services.


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Preface (Book Lionesses Need Lions)

Dawn Molina

            Reverse engineering deep patterns of personal dysfunction is sobering. At this point of my life I can categorize my life into three stages: my unconscious evolution, my humility through demolition and my conscious re-engineering. My humility through demolition was the most painful part of beginning to navigate what love means to me, because it became increasingly clear that I didn’t love myself. I loved many people with whom I shared my life, both past and present. I could ascertain what love “is” through these relationships, because I was able to give love freely. What I couldn’t define was my love for myself. I found myself becoming brutally capricious about people, places and things that didn’t return my love as vigorously.

            The deeper dive into my own self-reflection revealed an ambiguous personal value system that was the core to my personal instability. Although there were compartments of my life that were extremely successful as defined by societal terms I struggled to harness any real fulfillment in my personal life. Because of my unwavering ability to compartmentalize my fear was never apparent. Because of my unwavering ability to compartmentalize my level of control due to my honest ability to focus was unquestionable. Yet of my unwavering ability to compartmentalize, albeit concealing my loneliness, it was destroying my heart. I suffered from deep personal pain although I was surrounded by a horde of people that I loved so much. Why then?

            When my son was ten I sought his approval to leave my first husband. He shockingly expressed that we could make it alone, but due to my fear and lack of self-love I sought love outside of myself. Once again, I was desperately searching for an answer I didn’t know I had within me. One day when my son was sixteen while sitting in our kitchen nook he unsolicitedly affirmed, my reason for being the way I was. He told me “mother women have to be like you these days, because men aren’t men anymore.” This began the stage of my humility through demolition. I only partially believed what he said that day at the time and I believe it even less now that I have begun my conscious re-engineering stage. Instead I have developed some complex personal ideas about why I became the way I was totally apart from the men I chose to share my life with. The answers weren’t defined by them, they are mine-and-mine alone.

            During my humility through demolition stage I observed pro-feminist women, privately steeped in patriarchy, making conscious decisions to stand beside men that disgraced them publicly amongst friends. I connected with women from different cultures who shared their experiences of survival by means of manipulation to find freedom. To date I have worked closely with over three hundred women to help develop a sense of physical strength & wellness through preventive health care measures. I never struggled with any of these issues directly in my unconscious evolution stage. So why then?

            This is a story about a little girl who watched her mother suddenly die when she was seven years old. My father that was a USMA West Point Graduate who was a strict disciplinarian who couldn’t express his love. My father was a beautiful man with a brilliant mind and a depressed heart. When my mother passed away my father never recovered and it was never about the motherless child, but instead the wifeless husband. Although my father provided a financially stable and nourishing scholastic environment he suffered at being consciously present. He deliberately dissociated love and intimacy. During my humility through demolition stage I realized this was my why.

            The dissociation of intimacy and love is a travesty. Yet it macerates our society through the ever-growing need for ephemeral connection and superficial relationships. Love and intimacy require truth; the truth about ourselves and one another. To go from shallow to intimate relationships one must become familiar with truth where we deal with issues we don’t often care to deal with. Repressing truth about ourselves makes us laden with resentment and ultimately creates great personal pain. Our willingness to face rejection in the pursuit of our own truth is in of its self an act of unselfish love.

            My father indeed raised me to be the strongest woman I could possibly be. For this I will forever be grateful. My abilities, skills and capacity were developed directly under his influence. However, the contradiction of his values that he expressed after my mother passed away was by choosing to court women that were exactly the opposite of my mother: much younger, uneducated and codependent. During my unconscious evolution stage, I unknowingly developed a pattern of seeking out a specific kind of man: southern, impressionable and who had parents that remained married to their first spouse. Nonsensical and not deliberate, but a true pattern none the less.

            The devastating disharmony with these men was their likewise dissociation with love and intimacy even though they came from a different establishment. Although their parents were still married they were no longer in love, never shared real intimacy and due to this only remained together due to financial constraints, children or shame. Because these men were raised in this environment they thought nothing of their dissociation with love and intimacy. They too were broken and could not help me find what I needed or wanted. They were great men, but neither could fully engage in real sensual connection beyond the honeymoon phase when lust is often mistaken for intimacy. My deeper desire to establish real intimacy in pursuit of a resolute married life was admonished due to their own renunciation of personal truth (whatever it was for them) and I was often left feeling indecent.

            Now as I am working through my conscious re-engineering stage I have established real personal values that define my true character and have greatly impacted every aspect of my life. These ideals guide my behavior and I am now positive when I say no to things that are vehemently opposed to my established personal values. Love and intimacy in all my personal relationships are the core principals in my value system. I know for myself personally that being of loving impact on other’s lives is my truth. I’ve reorganized my entire professional life to follow this structure and I have chosen the same for my personal life. This isn’t an easy process, I face rejection every day and there are many unknowns when navigating love. I do know that relationships don’t always fail because men aren’t men anymore, because women are always victims of sexism and gender inequality or anywhere in between in same gender relationships. There is a larger disconnect and it’s often rooted in our inability to define our own truth first.




Position Over Submission

Dawn Molina

Dawn & Kayla

For my entire adult life, I have valued the Jiu-Jitsu philosophy: position over submission. It makes total sense right; why would anyone choose to faultily jump the gun and do something prematurely? Knowing our position during every step of the process helps to lessen probability of disaster, right? It seems like a no brainer. I believed in this philosophy for many years with unwavering rigidity.

However, as I get older I realize that this philosophy applies less and less. Although this philosophy may be important when dealing with spatial awareness, I find it less important when dealing with everyday life. Is painstakingly planning every move a quality endeavor? Is knowing where we stand every step of the way as critical as those of us with obsessive compulsive disorder would like to believe? At this point of my life I have determined for myself personally this causes more stress than I care to live with. By no means am I asserting that there is a lack of importance in assessing and planning “life” things. It’s simply become my experience that life is more unpredictable than this philosophy can encircle. Flexibility over constant positioning has come to serve me in better ways.

Flexibility tends to alleviate stress both physical and mental. It can provide stability even if we don’t know where we are in the moment. Flexibility influences the ability to ebb & flow depending on topical presenting factors. Incessantly positioning ourselves for better outcomes can impose impractical measures of outcome that can leave us feeling unaccomplished, angry and sad when things don’t go as we’ve planned. Positioning, simply put, can be downright stressful.

"Stress is not a state of mind. It’s measurable, dangerous and humans can't seem to find their off-switch." These words of warning come from renowned author and award-winning neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer. Sapolsky explains how we are more vulnerable to stress if the following factors are true:

§  If we feel like we have no control

§  If we are not getting any predictive information

§  If we feel we have no way out

§  If we interpret things as getting worse

§  If we have no "shoulder to cry on" (e.g., lack of social affiliation or support)

The first four bullets outlined above can be tightly linked to poor positioning and lack of flexibility. Flexibility impacts adaptation; adaptation reduces stress. So why is flexibility so hard for humans to achieve: both physically and mentally? The answer is easy; no one wants to be submitted. Hasn’t this come full circle? We tend to over position to avoid submission. We over think in an attempt to control outcomes. Being prepared and disciplined can be practiced apart from over positioning. There is no doubt that we can achieve a better position through preparedness and discipline. Be that as it may choosing to be flexible, even if it means submitting for a better position, in the long term can reduce our stress. So why choose to be stressed? The answer to this is not as easy.

Science has established that stress kills us. The research is all around us. We are the most medicated, obese and depressed America to date. There is no promise for a better outcome; tomorrow may never come. Stress is the number one silent killer being linked to many psychosomatic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, endocrine and sexual disorders. I mean who wouldn’t be depressed? If we could just learn to flexible. Flexible with ourselves and flexible with others.

Sweet Potato Brownies Vitamin "A" Not One Nutrient!

Dawn Molina

The term "vitamin A" makes it sound like there is one particular nutrient called "vitamin A," but that is not true. Vitamin A is a broad group of related nutrients. Each of these nutrients provides us with health benefits, but these benefits may be quite different and they may be provided in different ways. This particular recipe is rich in the plant form of Vitamin A (carotenoid), in the form of beta-carotene! Carotenoid forms of Vitamin A provide us with unique health benefits. Most carotenoid forms of vitamin A function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Scientists now know that the T and B cells of the immune system cannot be correctly synthesized without vitamin A, nor can immune responses be effectively activated without participation of vitamin A. Many researchers believe that vitamin A may play an important role in our immune & inflammatory "braking" system that assists our cells from becoming over-reactive. Since some aspects of food allergy can be related to our immune system's over-reaction to food proteins, optimal intake of vitamin A may turn out to be important for lowering risk of certain types of food allergy!

This healthy brownie recipe swaps avocado puree for butter, unsweetened applesauce for sugar, pureed prunes for syrup and pureed sweet potato for half of the necessary flour.

Brownie Ingredients: (Wet) 8oz. Cooked Sweet Potato, 4oz. Avocado, 4oz. Unsweetened Apple Sauce, 4oz. Pitted Dates, 2 Nest Fresh Large Eggs, 1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract, (Dry) 1/2 Cup Gluten Free Flour, 1 Tsp. Baking Soda, 1 Tsp. Himalayan Salt, 2oz. Organic Cacao Powder, 1/4 Cup Walnuts.

Icing Ingredients: 1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder, 2oz. Almond Hazelnut Butter, 1oz. Organic Cacao Powder, 1/2 Cup Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt, 1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil.

Recipe Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease a 9" x 9" baking pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving enough extra to extend over the sides.

  • Combine the avocado, sweet potato, unsweetened applesauce, pitted dates, vanilla extract and eggs into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the gluten-free flour, cacao powder, salt and baking soda and mix well with a whisk, until completely blended.

  • Add the dry ingredients the food processor and resume processing until well combined, about 30 seconds. Pulse in walnuts and transfer the batter to your prepared pan. Spread evenly and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out almost clean.

  • Set brownies on a wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes.

  • While the brownies are cooling, prepare the icing by adding all the ingredients to the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth and creamy.

  • Pour over warm brownies and spread evenly with a spatula.

  • Leave the brownies on the wire rack until they reach room temperature then transfer to the fridge until completely cool. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Food Labels: Understand What You're Reading

Dawn Molina

As lots of people make new year’s resolutions to improve their diet, some may start to pay closer attention to the nutrition labels on the foods they buy. You may have recently caught my brief interview on WTSP Tampa Bay News 10. In this blog I will specifically expound on what to look for on your food labels as a concerned consumer. If you would like to schedule a grocery store visit with me, feel free to reach out and we can visit the store together. I totally understand how confusing and frustrating reading food labels can be!

Here are some guidelines to get you started:

1. Look at Serving Size

Start by looking at the nutrition facts and the serving size. Packages frequently contain more than a single serving, which means that you may have to multiply all of the amounts listed to get an accurate picture of how many calories or how much sugar is in a single container.

2. Check Calorie Count

Although calories are only part of the picture when it comes to reading labels, they’re vital to help you determine appropriate portion size. The standard daily caloric intake guidelines are 1,800-2,200 calories for adult women and 2,200-2,500 for adult men. (These calculations vary according to physical activity.) So, if you choose a food with 700 calories per serving, keep in mind that is approximately one-third of your daily calorie intake.

3. Avoid Enemy Fats

Trans fats raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol), lower HDL (“good” cholesterol), and slow your metabolism. Look for foods with zero trans fats, but be aware of this disturbing little factoid: If a product contains less than 1 gram of trans fat per serving, it can be listed as containing zero trans fats. Those trace amounts can really add up if you’re eating multiple servings per day.

So, how can you avoid eating trans fats? The best thing to do is stay away from foods that contain any partially or fully hydrogenated oils, which contain large quantities of trans fats and other altered fat substances.  Hydrogenated oils, which are often found in commercial baked goods, are designed to be impervious to bacteria so that they can sit on grocery store shelves for long periods of time. Is it any surprise that our own bodies would have trouble breaking down and processing these synthetic compounds?

4. Minimize Sodium

The recommended maximum daily intake of sodium is 2,300 mg per day (about one teaspoon), or 1500 mg per day if you’re over 40 or have hypertension. Consuming excess sodium is correlated with hypertension because it draws in water, which increases blood volume, which in turn increases blood pressure. The increased pressure strains the heart and increases the risk of atherosclerosis. If you have hypertension or heart disease, talk to your health care provider to determine your recommended daily limit of sodium.

5. Choose Carbs Wisely and Avoid Added Sugars

Carbohydrates (“carbs”) are often demonized in the media, but in truth, they’re abundant in whole foods and are a very important source of energy. The key thing to keep in mind is that complex carbohydrates (i.e., the carbohydrates in natural, fibrous foods like fruits & vegetables) are infinitely better for you than simple carbohydrates like refined sugar. The presence of fiber in complex carbs causes your body to break down the food more slowly, thus preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar. This is why you’ve likely heard that eating a piece of fruit is a healthier option than simply drinking fruit juice–the whole piece of fruit contains fiber, while the juice has been processed and stripped of fiber.

When you look at a food label, you’ll notice that there’s no recommended daily amount for sugar; the amount of sugar in the food is simply listed in grams. But most of us can’t really visualize a gram of sugar. To get a better picture, try converting grams to teaspoons by dividing by 4. For example, 20 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar. As you read labels, you may realize that your daily sugar intake includes a lot more than what you add to your coffee!

Keep things simple by choosing complex carbohydrates, and by keeping added sugars to a minimum. For further advice, consult a nutritionist – we love talking about this stuff!

6. Get Your Fiber On

The American Dietetic Association recommends 25 g of dietary fiber for adult women and 38 g for adult men per day. Fiber is a crucial component of any food because it helps prevent big swings in blood sugar, keep your colon healthy, and best of all, it makes you feel full – so you eat less!

7. Stick with Short Ingredients Lists

Ingredients are listed in order by weight, so the first items on the list make up the bulk of the food. Look for foods containing unprocessed, recognizable ingredients.  If you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize some of the ingredients, put the product back on the shelf!

Another common rule of thumb is to look for foods with no more than five ingredients. Lengthy lists are usually a sign that a product has unnecessary extras such as artificial preservatives.

8. Look for Sugars with Nutritional Benefits

White sugar is highly processed and has been stripped of other nutrients. Instead of white sugar, look for less-processed sugars such as: Brown rice sweeteners (which usually include fiber), Honey (which contains beneficial antioxidants) or Molasses (which contains trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium)

Please remember even though these types of sugars have more nutritional value than other processed sugars, they’re still sugars, and should be kept to a minimum.

9. Be Aware of “Hidden” Sugars

Sugar can masquerade under many different names. Be on the lookout for dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, levulose, maltose, sucrose, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, beet sugar, corn sugar, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, isomalt, maltodextrins, maple sugar, sorghum or turbinado sugar. You might even find more than one listed. These are all just variations on high-calorie, low-nutrient, added sugar.

Sugar alcohols deserve special mention – there are many different types, a few of the most common include: sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol.  A food sweetened with “sugar alcohols” can  say “0 grams sugar” on the nutritional label, but if the product is labeled ‘sugar-free’ or ‘no added sugar,’ the manufacturer must list the sugar alcohol count separately.

In general sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by the body, which means they can have less of an impact on your blood sugar. That’s arguably a good thing, but the side effects are often intestinal discomfort, bloating and gas, so our advice is generally to steer clear!

10. Look for Whole Grain Breads

If you don’t see the word “whole” before the name of a grain, it’s not a whole grain. “Enriched flour” is not a whole grain product, nor is “unbleached white flour.” They are the same as white flour and have been stripped of fiber. To maximize your fiber intake, look for whole grains in the ingredient lists.

11. Know that Ingredients May Change

Even if you’ve been buying a particular product for years, it’s still a good idea to glance at the ingredients list every once in awhile. Things change! A recent example is Green & Black’s chocolate – their dark chocolate was always deliciously dairy free, but since they were acquired by Kraft Foods in January of 2010, their chocolate now contains whole milk powder.  This may seem inconsequential, but if you’re sensitive to dairy it is important to know.

When you begin reading food labels, it can feel almost feel like a second job. But once you get into the swing of it, it becomes more natural. Most importantly, it puts you back in control of what you’re eating. Start with a close examination of one or two packaged foods on a weekly basis–take a moment or two to understand what you’re really putting into your body…and let us know how it goes!

Evaulation of Short-term Effects of Self-massage Combined With Home Exercise on Pain, Daily Activity, and Autonomic Function in Patients with Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome.

Dawn Molina

Strength & Conditioning Research Evaluation - by Dawn Molina

Short-term effects of self-massage combined with home exercise on pain, daily activity, and autonomic function in patients with myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome.                                                                   by Chan, Wang, Chang, Chen, Chu, Lin, and Chang, in Journal of Physical Therapy Science (2015).

Study Objective
To explore retrospectively the effects of a 2-week program of self-massage and home exercise for patients with myofascial pain syndrome.

What did the researchers do?
The 63 patients had been previously diagnosed as having myofascial pain syndrome for 6 – 18 months. The intervention group received a self-massage and home exercise program, 3 sessions per week over a 2-week period. The self-massage involved rolling a baseball on the specific neck and upper back muscles that had trigger points. The home exercise program involved stretching of the neck and upper back muscles.

What happened?
Pain and pressure pain threshold. The researchers found that only the self-massage group reduced pain significantly.

Disability and function
The researchers found that only the intervention group significantly improved the neck disability index.

What did the researchers conclude?
The researchers concluded that self-massage and home exercise is more effective than solely using other conventional physical modalities for pain and pressure pain threshold.

Enzymes, pH Balance Levels and Why What We Eat Matters

Dawn Molina

Every part of the human body is built of proteins; enzymes included. Enzyme proteins catalyze all processes in our body. When enzymes don't catalyze properly our body can resort to extreme measures in order to carry out and support natural bodily function. Enzymes are the workhorses of the body. When you eat, enzymes break down the food into tiny particles which can be converted into energy in the body. The process starts in the mouth, where an enzyme called amylase attacks all incoming food particles. Enzymes continue to break down the food all the way to the stomach and intestines.

Enzymes are affected by changes in our pH balance levels. The most favorable pH value, the point where the enzyme is most active, is known as the optimum pH. Extremely high or low pH values generally result in complete loss of activity for most enzymes. pH is also a factor in the stability of enzymes. As with activity, for each enzyme there is also a region of pH optimal stability. The optimum pH value will vary greatly from one enzyme to another. Whenever a substance needs to be transformed into another substance, the body uses its enzymes. Enzymes can cut biological materials into smaller pieces and paste them together again. Enzymes thus break down or build up all life-essential substances within our body.

Our body's pH is greatly affected by what we eat. This is because food consists of it's own biological materials that our body must breakdown, absorb and assimilate. If a food's pH is too high or too low it can greatly affect our body's reaction to absorption. Often our pH levels are so high and in a state of acidosis, that enzymatic digestion must be replaced with a more acidic digestive process. In the short term this may result in acid reflux, inflammation, ulcers, flatulence and more. In the long term, if left uncorrected, high pH levels can result in a number of gastrointestinal disorders and chronic illnesses.

So why is this? Myself and many other food science professionals believe that this is relative to food combining. Food combining confuses Americans. This is because eating any one food, on its own without an accompaniment, in its original state: NEVER HAPPENS. Again, food consists of it's own biological materials that our body must breakdown. If the biological material in the foods we eat are not meant to be combined, our internal chemical reaction will be negative.

Proper food combinations helps digestion and allows the body the ability to break down food more easily. This helps our body to better absorb the nutrients, to properly energize our body and to keep our body free of chronic illness. Improper food combinations continually produce indigestion and poor micro-nutrient absorption, which can internalize as auto-immune deficiency or externalize as an allergic reaction. This is a rampant issue in western culture. Yet instead of addressing our food quality and intake we remain ill or take medication to suppress the results of our poor nutritional choices.

The Meaning of Wellness: The State or Quality of Being Well

Dawn Molina

Just like many other temporary notions and fads, "wellness" has become popularized in the last few years. Everyone from public corporations like Kellogg with their healthier Kashi brand (read more) to supplement companies like Herbal Life (read more) are staking claim to being a healthier choice. Everyone wants a piece of wellness, and why not, it makes generally unhealthy people feel healthier. However, the "wellness" word has created so much buzz here in recent years, that the general public has lost sight of the definition and what wellness really means.

Adding the suffix "ness" to any word adds the meaning "state or quality of" to the word. For instance adding the suffix "ness" to the word "fresh" would be defined as the state of being fresh: The apple was crisp with freshness. The same grammatical rule applies for adding "ness" to "well". Wellness is defined as the state of being well.

So many products and services have labeled themselves as wellness brands in an attempt to take advantage of the public's lack of knowledge in the misuse of this important labeling. Being in the wellness class, especially if you are a nutrition brand, requires that a few compulsory measures be met. It is our job as the consumer to ensure that we are doing the proper investigation necessary before consuming food that can potentially cause food allergies and illness. Most importantly we want to ensure that what we are eating is nutrient dense and well worth the money that we are spending. Let's face it, food isn't inexpensive! Investing in the proper fuel for our bodies is a no-brainer.

We are what we eat, or so the saying goes. Regardless of how you interpret this statement, there is truth to this. This statement means so many things for so many different people, but the inconvenient truth is that wellness is modified to suit the individual based on whatever is easiest for them. For example, most people would accept a brand if it were labeled "healthy or NON-GMO" without a true NON-GMO stamp issued by the FDA. Myself, the people I have educated, and all of the people that are part of the Anti-Monsanto project would want to see the FDA approved NON-GMO label and a proper list of ingredients being used in the product being sold to us. This is a predominant factor in being a healthy, wellness focused consumer.

If the brand was not a physical product and instead a food service provider (i.e. restaurant, caterer, or store) staking claim about being a NON-GMO/organic food service offering; I would do my homework. I would want to know: Who owns the company? What is their educational background? Who are their affiliates? Where is the product being sold sourced from? Is the person(s) that owns the business healthy? Does the person(s) practice the same wellness ideals at home and with their families that they promote and sell to the public? 

So become a healthy consumer. Feed your children the healthiest foods. As a nutritionist I urge people to understand the consequences of what uneducated food choices mean for the future of our human existence. Regardless of how resilient we may feel in the moment, unhealthy eating and lifestyle choices take a toll on our lives. Research in the understanding of the role of nutrients on DNA stability, repair and on the different gene expression processes recently have become more prominent in nutritional science. Considering that there is wide variation in the ability of nutritional factors to modulate the expression of detrimental or protective proteins at an individual level, the concept of "diet-medication" are presently being developed in the light of a better understanding of nutrient-gene interactions for our children and children's children. 

Many people are pushing for nutrition to be taught as part of the customary education that our children receive (I am one of these people). The dilemma that we face in doing so is that we presently have an unhealthy generation of parents raising children that have the potential of becoming educated about nutritional wellness. This could cause a struggle that many people in America are unwilling to face. However, I believe that starting with the seed will enforce the proper labeling of food, thereby allowing consumers to make better informed decisions when purchasing food for their families.

Below are some links to help you take action now. Shop NON-GMO Project verified and verify your products before you buy them (NON-GMO applications for google smart-phones & NON-GMO applications for Iphones):

Remember that food is medicine and to eat as if your life depended on it.

- Dawn Molina

Taking Control of Your Health

Dawn Molina

Blog 3 Taking Control of Your Health.jpg

We all have the ability to take control of our lives. Be that as it may, there’s a time limit. In our younger years we are saved a countless number of times by our resilience. Yet as we get older the better, safer, healthier choices become life changing ones. I hear daily either from friends, family, or business associates that making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle is “too difficult”. For many making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle would be life changing, but because it’s too difficult they won’t make the choice. This sadly reminds me of my Uncle Jeff who passed away a few years back. We have all had a loved one that suffered from obesity or chronic illness, but because they were unwilling to live a healthier life eventually passed on.

Uncle Jeff was a loveable man. Amicable, yet set in his ways, one knew what to expect of him. Jeff had lived in Tampa, FL since he left Michigan in the early 1980’s. He liked steak and potatoes on his dinner plate, tailgating before Tampa Bay Buccaneers games, and enjoyed a few beers after work each night.

When Jeff was diagnosed with cancer he had time. The illness, in my opinion, was not  progressive in the beginning. Nevertheless, Jeff believed that medicine alone might save him. He and I had numerous conversations about life changes: less beer, a more colorful palette of food, less meat & potatoes, less work, more happiness, and more love. He was open to more happiness and more love. A matter of fact he was convinced that his happiness relied heavily on his ability to choose freely what he ate; regardless of whether the food got him to where he was health wise or not. Almost a year after Jeff was diagnosed with caner he passed on.

During the final year of his life he worked just as hard as the previous year, if not harder. He believed that the more “useful” he was, the less “ill” he appeared. This was absolutely tragic for many of us to watch, because he unquestionably became weaker day-after-day. He never ate a green vegetable before he was diagnosed with cancer and he never did after. He wouldn’t put anything green in his mouth; regardless of whether it was blended, juiced, or in a vegetarian pill form. We occasionally talked about the changes my ex-husband made to his nutrition that undoubtedly changed his life. But it didn’t matter. The immediate gratification and the pure convenience of being unhealthy appealed to him and nothing else did. It appealed to his family as well. At the time they were unwilling to make the necessary changes to assist in the savior of their loved one’s life. It was a tragedy that I witnessed first hand.

I speak with people daily about their food choices. People trying to loose weight for different reasons. Most people say the same thing, “I can’t eat that, because I don’t like it”. It’s startling to me that someone could want so desperately to change their life, but would still be unwilling to make food choices to benefit their health. I can educated a person about the countless health benefits of eating healthy, yet due to the difficulty to make the right food choices day-in-and-day-out, many simply abandon the effort in a short period of time.

The choice must begin with you.

- Dawn Molina

Spinach and Kale: Just Two of Our Greenest Friends

Dawn Molina

Blog 1 Spinach and Kale.jpg

When I was a child I never thought in a million years that I would love green vegetables as much as I do now. Like many of you I didn't grow up on an organic farm and I didn't have access to the beautiful gifts nature had to offer. I grew up in a generally unhealthy home. We weren't impoverished and we had access to finer things. Despite that we simply didn't know any better and having good nutrition simply meant we were able to eat more.

When I was younger I didn't understand that cells need nutrients to grow and work. I didn't know that lack of vitamins, minerals, adequate calories and proper protein can weaken our immune systems and make it less able to find and destroy germs. With all that unknown I generally ate whatever I wanted. Additionally I was athletic so most of what I ate I burned. To this very day almost two decades forward, one child later, I remain within five of what my weight was as a teenager. I move a lot and due to this my weight stays consistent. Nonetheless being well built doesn't make you disease free. Just look at athletes like Major League Baseball first baseman Andres Galarraga and Cyclist Lance Armstrong. Both were able to overcome their bouts with cancer, but they were not able to avoid the war against cancer with being fit alone. They still fell victim.

Research evidence suggests that some components of food may play a role in decreasing the risk of developing cancer including: phytochemicals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants that protect plants against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Eating large amounts of brightly colored fruits and vegetables (yellow, orange, red, green, white, blue, purple) may decrease the risk of developing certain cancers as well as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The action of phytochemicals varies by color and type of the food. They may act as antioxidants, nutrient protectors or prevent carcinogens (cancer causing agents) from forming. Phytochemicals cannot be found in supplements and are only present in food. Foods high in phytochemicals include the following:

  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Soynuts
  • Pears
  • Turnips
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Lentils
  • Cantaloupe
  • Garlic
  • Apricots
  • Onions
  • Green Tea
  • Apples
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Red Wine

Today I want to focus on two of my favorite green vegetables: Kale and Spinach. I just love these too green guys! They are my go to my salads and sandwich garnishes. I also enjoy eating the both of them cooked. Listed below are some nutritional facts about the two.

Spinach: Among the world's healthiest vegetables, spinach comes out at the top for nutrient richness. Rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also concentrated in health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) and flavonoids that provide us with powerful antioxidant protection. Even though virtually all vegetables contain a wide variety of phytonutrients—including flavonoids and carotenoids, our friend spinach can claim a special place among vegetables in terms of its phytonutrient content. Researchers have identified more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. And of course from excessive inflammation typically emerges the risk factor for increased cancer risk. Thus spinach is on top of its job by helping to reduce inflammation caused by other factors. Additionally one cup of spinach a day provides us with over 200% of our daily-recommended value of Vitamin K, which is essential for healthy bones. The friendly bacteria in our intestines convert vitamin K1 into vitamin K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. All of these vitamin K-related mechanisms point to the importance of vitamin K-rich foods for bone health and it is difficult to find vegetables that are richer in vitamin K than spinach.

Kale: While not as well researched as some of its fellow cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage, kale is a food that you can count on for some unsurpassed health benefits, if for no other reason than its exceptional nutrient richness. Like most of its fellow cruciferous vegetables, kale has been studied more extensively in relationship to cancer than any other health condition. This research focus makes perfect sense. Kale's nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates. Without sufficient intake of antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised. We then can experience a metabolic problem called "oxidative stress." Without sufficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, regulation of our inflammatory system can become compromised, and we can experience the problem of chronic inflammation. Oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and the combination of these two metabolic problems in conjunction with one another; are risk factors for the development of cancer. You can count on kale to provide valuable cardiovascular support in terms of its cholesterol-lowering ability. Our liver uses cholesterol as a basic building block to product bile acids. Bile acids are specialized molecules that aid in the digestion and absorption of fat through a process called emulsification. These molecules are typically stored in fluid form in our gall bladder, and when we eat a fat-containing meal, they get released into the intestine where they help ready the fat for interaction with enzymes and eventual absorption up into the body. When we eat kale, fiber-related nutrients in this cruciferous vegetable bind together with some of the bile acids in the intestine in such a way that they simply stay inside the intestine and pass out of our body in a bowel movement, rather than getting absorbed along with the fat they have emulsified. When this happens, our liver needs to replace the lost bile acids by drawing upon our existing supply of cholesterol, and, as a result, our cholesterol level drops down. Kale provides us with this cholesterol-lowering benefit whether it is raw or cooked. However, a recent study has shown that the cholesterol-lowering ability of raw kale improves significantly when it is steamed. In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed kale was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), kale bound 42% as many bile acids (based on a standard of comparison involving total dietary fiber). Amongst all of the cruciferous vegetables, only collard greens scored higher at 46%. Collard greens are another one of my favorite greens! Collard greens & bacon are included in the picture provided with this blog, but I love collards so much that I have to write a blog post strictly about them!

- Dawn Molina

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